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Three new principals hired as Mountain View schools prepare for distance learning

The Mountain View Whisman School District announced a slate of new hires Thursday night, including three new principals tasked with leading schools through the logistical challenges of teaching students remotely starting next month.

Over the last month, district officials revealed that two principals have resigned -- Monta Loma Elementary Principal Gloria Higgins and Mistral Elementary Principal Tabitha Miller -- and that Theuerkauf Elementary Principal Swati Dagar will be moving to a new position in the district office.

The announcements add to what has already been rapid turnover in leadership across most district schools, with some now on their third principal since 2015.

Trisha Lee

Replacing Higgins at Monta Loma Elementary School will be Trisha Lee, a Bay Area native and Santa Clara University graduate. Lee has spent most of her career working as a teacher and principal in the Milpitas Unified School District, working at schools at the elementary, middle and high school level. She more recently served as principal of Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School in Santa Clara.

Claudia Olaciregui

Replacing Miller at Mistral will be Claudia Olaciregui, who grew up in Colombia before moving to the area. She spent 11 years teaching at Ellis Elementary School in Sunnyvale, and later served as principal of a Spanish and English dual language program for K-8 students. She was briefly placed on special assignment for a community adult school in November last year before coming to Mountain View Whisman, according to the Morgan Hill Times.

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Dagar, who served as Theuerkauf's principal for two years, is switching roles effective this month and will be working in the district office as the director of curriculum and instruction, according to district personnel reports. She is taking over for the previous director, Tara Vikjord, who will be the district's new interim chief human relations officer. The previous human relations chief, Carmen Ghysels, announced her resignation at the end of the month.

Swati Dagar

Dagar, who did not respond to requests for comment, had previously taught at a STEM and engineering school in Morgan Hill Unified, and moved to Theuerkauf during big changes at the school. The demographics and school attendance boundaries for Theuerkauf have changed significantly, and it is no longer classified as a high-needs school under federal guidelines.

The latest available state test results show the school's academic performance is rising swiftly.

Michelle Williams

Filling the vacant principal job at Theuerkauf is Michelle Williams, a Southern California educator who served as a vice principal and instructional coach at e3 Civic High, a charter high school in the San Diego Unified School District. District officials say Williams has experience launching literacy and social-emotional learning programs using online tools.

With the Thursday announcements, six of the district's 11 schools have had three principals since 2015: Graham and Crittenden middle schools, and Theuerkauf, Monta Loma, Mistral and Huff elementary schools. Vargas Elementary School, which opened in August last year, lost its first principal before it even opened.

The big staffing changes come just one week after Mountain View Whisman ditched the possibility of reopening schools and resuming in-person instruction next month. Schools will instead start the 2020-21 school year with a newly unveiled distance learning model, outlined at the July 23 school board meeting, that includes daily check-ins, check-outs, live instruction and small group work over Zoom. A newly recruited team of six teachers will be hired to develop recorded lessons for use by classroom teachers.

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Three new principals hired as Mountain View schools prepare for distance learning

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 1:25 pm

The Mountain View Whisman School District announced a slate of new hires Thursday night, including three new principals tasked with leading schools through the logistical challenges of teaching students remotely starting next month.

Over the last month, district officials revealed that two principals have resigned -- Monta Loma Elementary Principal Gloria Higgins and Mistral Elementary Principal Tabitha Miller -- and that Theuerkauf Elementary Principal Swati Dagar will be moving to a new position in the district office.

The announcements add to what has already been rapid turnover in leadership across most district schools, with some now on their third principal since 2015.

Replacing Higgins at Monta Loma Elementary School will be Trisha Lee, a Bay Area native and Santa Clara University graduate. Lee has spent most of her career working as a teacher and principal in the Milpitas Unified School District, working at schools at the elementary, middle and high school level. She more recently served as principal of Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School in Santa Clara.

Replacing Miller at Mistral will be Claudia Olaciregui, who grew up in Colombia before moving to the area. She spent 11 years teaching at Ellis Elementary School in Sunnyvale, and later served as principal of a Spanish and English dual language program for K-8 students. She was briefly placed on special assignment for a community adult school in November last year before coming to Mountain View Whisman, according to the Morgan Hill Times.

Dagar, who served as Theuerkauf's principal for two years, is switching roles effective this month and will be working in the district office as the director of curriculum and instruction, according to district personnel reports. She is taking over for the previous director, Tara Vikjord, who will be the district's new interim chief human relations officer. The previous human relations chief, Carmen Ghysels, announced her resignation at the end of the month.

Dagar, who did not respond to requests for comment, had previously taught at a STEM and engineering school in Morgan Hill Unified, and moved to Theuerkauf during big changes at the school. The demographics and school attendance boundaries for Theuerkauf have changed significantly, and it is no longer classified as a high-needs school under federal guidelines.

The latest available state test results show the school's academic performance is rising swiftly.

Filling the vacant principal job at Theuerkauf is Michelle Williams, a Southern California educator who served as a vice principal and instructional coach at e3 Civic High, a charter high school in the San Diego Unified School District. District officials say Williams has experience launching literacy and social-emotional learning programs using online tools.

With the Thursday announcements, six of the district's 11 schools have had three principals since 2015: Graham and Crittenden middle schools, and Theuerkauf, Monta Loma, Mistral and Huff elementary schools. Vargas Elementary School, which opened in August last year, lost its first principal before it even opened.

The big staffing changes come just one week after Mountain View Whisman ditched the possibility of reopening schools and resuming in-person instruction next month. Schools will instead start the 2020-21 school year with a newly unveiled distance learning model, outlined at the July 23 school board meeting, that includes daily check-ins, check-outs, live instruction and small group work over Zoom. A newly recruited team of six teachers will be hired to develop recorded lessons for use by classroom teachers.

Comments

Greg Coladonato
Slater
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:51 pm
Greg Coladonato, Slater
on Jul 24, 2020 at 2:51 pm
16 people like this

Welcome to the MVWSD, Principals Lee, Olaciregui, and Williams!


Parent
Cuesta Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm
Parent, Cuesta Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm
18 people like this

Serious question for other parents (and hoping for real--not inflammatory--responses): This seems like a lot of turnover, although I don't keep track of other districts to be able to compare. Why is there this level of turnover in MVWSD?


District observer
Rex Manor
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:47 pm
District observer, Rex Manor
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:47 pm
23 people like this

@parent
You ask why the level of turnover in the district - Rudolph arrived in 2015 and the turnover has been constant since then. Many people have said that he is a bully, which would explain the turnover. Who wants to work in that environment? It's time the Board opened their eyes and showed him the door.


Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:33 pm
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:33 pm
36 people like this

@parent

Rudolph nor the Board will ever take credit for their failures. Their egos just keep getting in the way. They just bully and blame and gin up a lot of excuses. Wheeler is the worst. Gutierrez is an even bigger bully with an inferiority complex to boost. Blakey is naive. Wilson? Just ridiculous. They claim together they make informed decisions based on cumulative years of experience expertise. And then they go silent 2-3 years later when their plans produce even more chaos.


Yet Another Frustrated Parent
Rex Manor
on Jul 24, 2020 at 9:02 pm
Yet Another Frustrated Parent, Rex Manor
on Jul 24, 2020 at 9:02 pm
31 people like this

Why why does the district keep doing this to these innocent elementary school children? These kids need continuity and stability and they get attached and close to a principal and then in a year or two the principal is moved. The children are already going through a very difficult time during this pandemic with distance learning and now on top of that the district goes and does this. Do they not have a heart? These types of moves impact these children specially at this young age. My child was in tears after hearing about Ms.Dagar not being there when they eventually go to school. This needs to stop please..


In the room where it happened
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:57 am
In the room where it happened, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:57 am
34 people like this

You ask why so many turnovers, it’s hard be effective And do a great job if you live in fear for your job. To put things in perspective at the very first administration retreat when Rudolf came on board, one of the very first things said that day was “ I can just fire all of you”. Very prophetic. Don’t you think?


I was there too
another community
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:24 am
I was there too, another community
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:24 am
33 people like this

I was also there and can confirm Rudolph's statement at his first administrative retreat. And add to that his leadership style includes demeaning statements, raising his voice, accusatory tones, no genuine respect for women, and will misrepresent the truth, otherwise known as lying. And he's leading your schools and has your board enamored and fooled.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:56 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:56 am
6 people like this

I am sorry that the people in Dr. Rudolph's meeting - posting above - did not bother to privately contact me with their concerns WHEN IT HAPPENED and when I WAS ON THE BOARD. Did you later contact Member Coladonado? Two members of the Board may consult together on such oversight matters. That IS NOT a violation of Brown Act!

If you just accept that there is No Effective Oversight by a Board - then there will IN FACT be no effective oversight by a Board! This is true now, where there are not even two Trustees that will stand up to the Chief administrator, and keep him in line (in line - with community and workforce expectations).

You get the government that you elect. Please work for the rotation of the two incumbent Trustee off of the Board in this coming November general election. Otherwise this style of administration / lack of strong legislation (Board) oversight / will continue.


Me too (of three)
Rex Manor
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:03 am
Me too (of three), Rex Manor
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:03 am
26 people like this

I can confirm that Rudolph made the statement the very first time he met most of his administrative team. What an introduction. He also jumps to conclusions without evidence and refuses to change his mind when he is presented with evidence that doesn’t support his conclusion. Not an example I want set for the children of Mountain View.


In the room where it happened
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:55 am
In the room where it happened, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:55 am
31 people like this

It is finally coming to light that the people who were in the room where it happened are standing up and telling the truth of Rudolph’s leadership style.
Demeaning, threatening, bullying, condescending to the the foot soldiers in his army. Instead of building up he tears down. All of these things have been said before but the board doesn’t seem to care how he leads. What do they see in him? Yes he is flashy and maybe could be seen as charming when not behind closed doors. is this the kind of leader that Mountain View wants leading our children??


Patrick Neschleba
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 1:37 pm
Patrick Neschleba, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 1:37 pm
6 people like this

First, let me echo the welcome to our new principals! It’s a challenging time to be stepping into new leadership roles at our schools and these folks should be commended for taking on the task.

Do I think the principal turnover rate in MVWSD is too high? Yes.

Is the dialogue on this topic too polarized? Absolutely. There is always going to be some turnover and some of it might be desirable. Accountability, personal needs, career growth - all valid reasons. And I’m pretty sure that if one looks beneath the curtain of confidentiality that is school district personnel decision-making, one will find sound reasoning for most of not all departures.

That doesn’t mean we need to live with that. We can select leaders who want to be here longer than their predecessors. We can look at whether or not there are positive, growth-oriented relationships with senior district leaders which have our principals wanting to stay in their roles. We can ask whether or not they are resourced to get their day job done. We can continue to push for housing policies that make it possible for leaders and their families to stay. We can look very closely at District hiring processes and see how they can be better, so that we make the best decisions we can up-front. And we can ask MVWSD to be more transparent about the results we all get when a leader is moved into the district office.

Principal changes do thrash school communities. Our son had three different principals in his six years at Monta Loma, and two new principals during our time at Crittenden, so we’ve seen it first-hand and can relate to the frustrations many have. While some of this might be unavoidable, I would love to see our district find a way to do better.


Frustrated Parent Too
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Frustrated Parent Too, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm
20 people like this

I experienced the lies and bullying first hand from Carmen when we moved into MVWSD. This behavior was supported by the Superintendent. Throughout our years here, I have been repeatedly frustrated that neither the Board nor District leadership exhibits child-centric decision making. MVWSD is a diverse community with a variety of interests, but the guiding principle should be “what’s in the best interests of the students?” This does not seem to be at the forefront of many decisions.

The recent outpouring of concern regarding a large retention incentive for the Superintendent demonstrates the growing level of community frustration. Were the departing principals offered large retention bonuses? If not, are “retention decisions” being made in the best interests of the students?


Where there is smoke, there is fire
Rex Manor
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:39 pm
Where there is smoke, there is fire, Rex Manor
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:39 pm
30 people like this

Yes, people will make career decisions for a variety of reasons. The concerning part of the posts here is that there is a consistent narrative about Rudolph being a bully and demeaning people who work in the district. That is a huge problem. It's time for the board to talk with some of the people who have left recently so that they can get a true feeling for what is going on in the district. What say you board members?


Principal
another community
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:38 am
Principal, another community
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:38 am
15 people like this

You’ve got a bad Superintendent, it’s as simple as that. It has been a source of comedy to watch your school board try to work around that, as well as the district leadership team balance the reality of chaotic leadership with the need to protect their careers by pretending that Superintendent Rudolph is somehow going to turn this dumpster fire around. No other Bay Area district has had so much principal turnover without a change in the Superintendent. Good luck with your new hires.


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